If 2016 was a year for political surprises, 2017 will be known for spectacular PR fails.
Announcing itself as the winner for campaign fail of the year was Pepsi, linking up with social media guru and reality TV star Kendall Jenner. Borrowing imagery from Black Lives Matter, Jenner literally stopped a protest with a can of Pepsi in a new ad. Of course, it massively backfired and social media quickly went and brewed up a storm.
Then in a huge crash that that led investment managers gobsmacked, Pepsi meme stock plummeted as United Airlines memes stormed onto stage and took the crown.
The down-low for anyone who hasn’t been paying attention… United Airlines were overbooked and customers were asked to volunteer, with a cash incentive and overnight stay (with hotels paid for), to leave the aircraft. When no-one accepted the offer (and after the man in question refused to leave after being selected by a computer), security was filmed forcibly removing him from the plane. In the process they knocked two of his teeth out, broke his nose and gave him concussion. The images went viral worldwide and put United Airlines in hot water – it had officially broken the first two rules of Fight Club (credit: @reflog_18).
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Then, following the delay in crisis management from United, Twitter decided it was time to help them go through a rebrand with #newunitedairlinesmottos.
As expected, United’s competitors cashed in on the US airline’s errors (though credit for this one is actually due to Voksul).
Surely, CEO Oscar Munoz, the same CEO who won PRWeek’s Communicator of the Year Award, could handle a crisis? Not quite. Instead of handling the crisis, Munoz decided to double down on the negativity, responding with the quote “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers”.
Even with the media focusing on US relations with China, there was still time to find out solutions for how Trump was going to solve the North Korea nuclear problem.
It’s going to be a rough couple of weeks for United, fortunately this is 2017 and a PR fail is always just around the corner.